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ObamaCare Rollback Bill Dies without Vote; U.S. Military Investigating Civilian Deaths; London Terror Attack; Ukraine Blames Russia for Killing of Kremlin Critic. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired March 25, 2017 - 02:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It's a stinging rebuke for Donald Trump. Health care reform is dead, at least for now. And it comes at the hands of the president's own party.

And did the assailant in the London attack have any support?

Investigators arrested two more people on Friday.

Plus allegations that American air raids may have killed hundreds of civilians in Iraq and Syria. What the Pentagon is saying about it. We'll get to that later in the show.

Hi, everyone. Thank you very much for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier in Atlanta. And your CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


VANIER: So U.S. President Donald Trump has been handed a stunning defeat two months into his presidency. He had pledged to overturn the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

But after weeks of negotiations and revisions, a Republican bill to roll back key provisions of ObamaCare was abruptly abandoned on Friday before it could even come to a vote. CNN's Phil Mattingly has our report.



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The pressure, the arm twisting, the ultimatum, they have all fallen short.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I will not sugarcoat this. This is a disappointing day for us. Doing big things is hard. All of us, all of us, myself included, we will need time to reflect on how we got to this moment, what we could have done to do it better. MATTINGLY (voice-over): House Speaker Paul Ryan deciding to pull the Republican ObamaCare repeal and replacement plan hours after traveling to the White House to tell President Trump directly he didn't have the votes to pass it and warning, one source said, that the loss on the House floor could be big.

RYAN: ObamaCare is the law of the land. It's going to remain the law of the land until it's replaced. We did not have quite the votes to replace this law. And so, yes, we're going to be living with ObamaCare for the foreseeable future.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): A jarring realization less than 24 hours after the president himself made his final offer, vote now or he is prepared to move on.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think we have to let ObamaCare go its way for a little while. And we'll see how things go. I'd love to see it do well but it can't.

And but again, it's not a question of, gee, I hope it does well. I would love it to do well. I want great health care for the people of this nation but it can't do well. It's imploding. And soon will explode.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Democrats taking a victory lap.

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Frankly, I thought they might have accomplished something in the first couple of months. I think their mistake really was they were so focused on embarrassing the Affordable Care Act rather than trying to improve it.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The health care setback, a stunning turn of events from the cautious optimism of the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How you feeling this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Feel great, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you guys think you're going to get the votes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We'll get it done today.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And even a few hours after that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) how are things going?

What are you hearing from our (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Going great. Just continue talking to the members, getting them ready as we move forward. Always confident.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But sources tell CNN the votes simply never materialized and it became clear that the leaders were actually losing votes based on the compromise designed to bring conservatives aboard.

The deal on the table would strip the 10 essential health benefits required in insurance plans by ObamaCare, something moderate Republicans already wary of the bill were telling leaders was simply a bridge too far, sources said.

This is all happening as the debate on the bill was ongoing, leaving members to question what, if any, path forward existed and leaving the president to answer questions about a looming failure of his first and biggest legislative push.


TRUMP: We'll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you rush it, do you think?

TRUMP: We'll see what happens.


MATTINGLY: Stunned silence: that's what House Republican leaders were met with when they told their members the simple message this evening: Trump is done.

That means health care, this issue that they have campaigned on cycle after cycle, year after year, their main political messaging point, ObamaCare repeal is not happening, not just now, not just in a couple weeks. It's not happening, period.

And that is a jarring realization for many of these members. But it's the reality as they move forward, whether it's tax reform or infrastructure.

The biggest question is now, with health care off the table, now with the biggest failure by far of this administration, sitting plainly in front of them, will they ever figure out a way to get together and work together?

We'll see. Phil Mattingly, CNN, Capitol Hill.



VANIER: So how does this play out politically going forward?

Larry Sabato is the director of the Center of Politics at the University of Virginia.

First things first, Larry.

Did this bill fail because of strategy or substance?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Cyril, it was both and a lack of preparation by Republicans; after seven years of consistent opposition to ObamaCare and four consecutive elections, where ObamaCare was the central platform of virtually every Republican candidate -- [02:05:00]

SABATO: -- it's staggering in a way.

VANIER: So what does that tell us actually about the Republicans -- I was going to get to that -- that they've had all this time to prepare for this and this is where they end up?

SABATO: The Republicans, being anti-government or being pro-small- government, are comfortable being the party of no. They have a lot of trouble getting to yes, even for their own president.

So, again, it's unprecedented to have a president and Congress of the same party and have a new president's central proposal, the first big proposal, to fail at the starting gate. It's easier to get it out of the House than the Senate. They couldn't come close to getting it out of the House.

VANIER: And what about Donald Trump failing in his first major legislative effort?

And it's clearly not a good look for the president. But he says -- and he's right -- he has got a lot of time left on the clock, a lot of time left in his presidency to revisit this.

So how important do you think this is in terms -- the wider terms of his presidency?

SABATO: Well, it puts pressure on him to produce -- and relatively quickly. He's right and you're right to note that he's on day 65, 66 and they're 1,461 days in a single presidential term. So there's a long, long way to go.

But we paid close attention in the beginning because, often, these early signs suggest both successes and failures in the future.

VANIER: Now the president is blaming the failure of this bill on the Democrats. Some analysts will blame it on parts of the Republicans. When you're essentially responsible for a bill, it is always a gamble politically to blame it on someone else.

Who do you think the voters are going to blame, do you think?

SABATO: Well, the history of this is very, very certain. Voters blame the party in control of the White House and Congress. Their assumption is that, when you control everything, you are responsible for what happens and doesn't happen.

So the blaming of the Democrats is kind of an automatic reflex among the Republicans. But let's remember they don't have the ability to do anything. And when ObamaCare was voted on in the first piece of President Obama's administration, all Republicans opposed it. So they're just returning the favor.

VANIER: And what about his idea that -- and this is what he said earlier on Friday -- ultimately, this is going to set him up for an even more successful bill or better bill for Americans because "ObamaCare is failing" -- those are Trump's words -- and so Democrats are going to rally behind him because they'll have no choice but to revisit ObamaCare and therefore he will end up with bipartisanship support for a bill. And he'll end up with a better bill.

SABATO: There is a zero chance of that happening and here's why. Never, at least in my lifetime, has the base of the Democratic Party been so activated and so totally opposed to a president even in the early stages of his administration. That is not going to fade. If anything, it's growing with time.

So Democratic politicians who, after all, depend on the Democrats and their state and their constituencies to re-elect them, are not going to help Donald Trump at any point in his presidency.

VANIER: All right, Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, thank you so much for joining us on the show.

SABATO: Thank you, Cyril.


VANIER: Somalia may be getting more help from the U.S. in its battle against the terror group Al-Shabaab. U.S. Defense officials tell CNN the assistance could mean an increase in airstrikes and more U.S. personnel advising local forces.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regardless of what combatant commander was sitting here this afternoon, I think they would all tell you that it's very important and very helpful for us to have a little bit more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness in terms of decision-making process and it will allow us to if it's -- in fact, counter ISIS or, in our case in Somalia, Al-Shabaab.

It will allow us to prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion. So that obviously is a -- is something that we advocate for and it's very -- it will, if we were given that opportunity, given those permissions and authorities, it will be very helpful to us.


VANIER: The White House has yet to approve the proposal.

Meanwhile Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for a deadly explosion that killed 10 people Tuesday in Mogadishu.

And the U.S. military is investigating whether it's responsible for the deaths of nearly 300 Syrian and Iraqi civilians in three different sets of airstrikes this month. CNN's Barbara Starr has more from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: One of the most widespread allegations that U.S. airstrikes this month in Mosul, Iraq, may have caused up to 200 or more civilian deaths.

What the U.S. military is saying is they are aware of these allegations from social media, from activist groups, from Iraqis and they are looking into it.


STARR: This was an area in West Mosul, heavily populated. There were a number of airstrikes over recent days. There have been social media reports and videos emerging of civilians killed in the area. The U.S. military says it was bombing in that area but it is trying to really get fidelity.

Did it bomb these buildings?

Were civilian casualties caused?

They are also looking into a recent strike near a mosque near Idlib, Syria. Civilians said to be killed there. They are looking into yet another case of a school building bombed north of Raqqah, Syria; more than 30 civilians were seeking shelter in that building. It is said they are looking into those allegations as well.

No final answer on any of these but a number of investigations now underway and the U.S. military insists if it is said to be found to be responsible, it will take that responsibility -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


VANIER: But North Korea is ready to carry out another nuclear test, that's according to two U.S. officials. They've been telling CNN that Pyongyang could conduct its sixth underground nuclear test at any time.

They say satellite imagery shows a potentially significant change at a test site. Two tunnel entrances have been dug out and weeks of activity, involving vehicles, personnel and equipment, suddenly stopped.

A similar pattern was seen just before previous tests.

British authorities are trying to figure out how Wednesday's terror attack came to be. The investigation into the attacker's seemingly normal life after the break.




VANIER: British police are looking to narrow their search for answers after Wednesday's deadly terror attack in London. Two of the 11 people arrested this week are still in custody. But authorities have not said if that means that 52-year-old Khalid Masood could have had help in carrying out the attack.

Scotland Yard's top counterterror officer is urging people who knew Masood to provide information.


MARK ROWLEY (PH), SCOTLAND YARD: We remain keen to hear from anyone who Khalid Masood, anyone who knew Khalid Masood well, anybody who understands who his associates were, anyone who can provide information about the places he's recently visited.

There might well be people out there who did have concerns about Masood but weren't sure or didn't feel comfortable for whatever reasons to pass that information to us.


VANIER: An investigation has homed in on the attacker's past two homes in Birmingham, England. Our Nic Robertson paid a visit to both.




ROBERTSON: -- last year, nondescript but large, plenty of rooms. A tranquil, respectable neighborhood and despite his violent past, the soon-to-be killer didn't break the calm here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never really seen him. The only way I would probably see him is if I was leaving my house and he just happened to be outside, whatever, he was cleaning his car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of the times I remember him wearing a Muslim, Islamic wear. Also his wife, she was covered. Just her face was uncovered.

ROBERTSON: And the children, daughter, was she covered?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember a boy and a girl and a girl was wearing a scarf also on her head.

ROBERTSON: What sort of age?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Primary school age, 6, 7, I would say.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Then for no apparent reason, everything changed. Around Christmas last year, neighbors say they saw Masood out here on his driveway, packing a moving van, taking his family away from this quiet suburban street. And this is where he moved to, a shabbier, less prosperous neighborhood right next to a busy main road, at the same location armed police raided the night after the attack. Four people arrested on suspicion of preparation of a terrorist act.

Their landlord describes the low-rent rooms they were snatched from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are seven-bedroom flats, which they have been turned into seven individual rooms with seven individual facilities between the rooms. So every room is separate to another.

ROBERTSON: So you might call them bed sets?


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Downstairs, the Mini Mart owner remembers Masood as a fitness fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And police guy come, showed me his photo as well. And I say I know him. He's come plenty time in my shop and buys frankfurts (ph), sweets and cashew nuts (INAUDIBLE). And I know him now.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): This is the official police photograph of Khalid Masood, who they say used to be called Adrian Russell Ajao (sic) and Adrian Elms. What happened to bring the changes, unclear.

Police still searching for clues, more raids, more arrests, many, many questions unanswered -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Birmingham, England.


VANIER: Pope Francis is warning European Union leaders that the E.U. risks dying without a new vision based on its founding principles of solidarity. He spoke at the Vatican on Friday on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. That document started the political project that became today's European Union.

The pope said that the rise of populism and the current economic and migration crises can be overcome.

Far right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is reaffirming her support for dropping E.U. sanctions against Russia. She met with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Friday and said he represents a new vision for the world, a vision she says is also represented by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Mr. Putin told Le Pen that she represents a fast-growing element of European politics and he says Russia has no intention of influencing the French election but reserves the right to meet with French political leaders.

A top former aide to the U.S. president is set to testify over alleged Kremlin ties to the Trump campaign. The chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee says Paul Manafort has offered to speak to the committee. Two other former Trump advisers, Carter Page and Roger Stone, may also

testify. Manafort served as Mr. Trump's campaign chairman for several critical months in the 2016 presidential race. He was fired in August of 2016.

He's also faced accusations over ties to Ukraine's former pro-Russian president.

Now all of this news comes as Ukraine blames Moscow for killing a Kremlin critic. Our Fred Pleitgen has more and that -- and a warning: his report contains some graphic video.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A day after the murder of Kremlin critic Denis Voronenkov, this chilling surveillance video has surfaced.

Obtained by a Ukrainian broadcaster, it purports to show the moment Denis Voronenkov was killed, his bodyguard wounded. And now the diplomatic mudslinging between Moscow and Kiev over this case has kicked into high gear.

One senior Ukrainian lawmaker claiming that the assassin who was also killed in the shootout may have been Ukrainian but acted on Russia's orders.

"I can say with certainty that Denis Voronenkov has been murdered by the agent of Russian special services, a citizen of Ukraine," said Anton Gerashchenko.

Ukraine's president, Pedro Poroshenko, branded the assassination "Russian state terrorism. " And on a visit to Ukrainian security forces on Friday, linked it to another mysterious murder of Ukrainian journalist Pavel Sheremet --


PLEITGEN (voice-over): -- and to a massive fire in a Ukrainian ammunition depot near the town of Kharkiv.

"It's a matter of honor for our law enforcement," he said, "to disclose the murderers of Pavel Sheremet and Denis Voronenkov and the sabotage in the Kharkiv region."

Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated in a 10 kilometer radius around the ammo dump. Ukraine accuses of Russia of setting it on fire.

Russian officials call all of these allegations "absurd," the Speaker of Russia's parliament saying that Ukraine is turning into what he called a terrorist state, unable to protect its citizens. Other Russian lawmakers chiming in.

"While the dead bodies are still being inspected and not even in the morgue yet, the head of the state makes such allegations of Russian state terrorism.

"What does this tell us?

"This is a ready made scenario," this right wing politician said.

Ukrainian authorities say they're looking for driver who possibly dropped the killer off at the scene of the murder. But even as the investigation into the killing of Denis Voronenkov progresses, the case has already become highly publicized and another lightning rod between the adversaries, Russia and Ukraine -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Moscow.


VANIER: We're going to take a short break. When we come back, damaging floods are taking a heavy toll in Angola. We'll have the latest on that.




VANIER: Welcome back.

So flying to the U.S. and the U.K. from some airports in the Middle East and North Africa has just got more complicated. The Trump administration has ordered nine airlines to stop passengers from bringing laptops and other large electronic devices into the cabin for U.S. bound flights. That takes effect this weekend.

Smartphones are still allowed. The ban covers flights from 10 airports, including Dubai. And the U.K. government has announced similar restrictions. The move is attributed to concerns about potential terrorist attacks.

Also this, the Trump administration has approved final construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The move reverses a decision made under Barack Obama to block it because of environmental concerns.

The pipeline will bring crude oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Mr. Trump says it will boost jobs and energy independence. But environmentalists say it's part of a wider process that would increase greenhouse gases and damage sources of fresh water.

Now torrential rains have flooded homes and left thousands without shelter in Angola. This is not a country we talk about very much. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us now with more.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A lot of times, Cyril, it's difficult to get information and video or pictures from a remote part of the world. We're going to take you to the capital city of Angola. This is in Lawanda. And you can just see some of the torrential rain and flooding that

they are dealing with as we speak. This is some of the minibus taxis that take commuters back and forth from work to their homes.

Unfortunately, with this latest round of flooding, there have been nearly a dozen fatalities; over 700 homes have been destroyed and thousands of people have been left homeless after 80 millimeters of rain fell in less than a 24-hour period.



VAN DAM: Let's take you from Earth to outer space quickly. Got to show you this because NASA, in partnership with the French astronauts, have actually just retrofitted the International Space Station to accept -- get this, Cyril -- well, space taxis for future endeavors for, well, let's say, the regular public, like you and me.

VANIER: You could get an Uber up there?


VAN DAM: Just wait, right?

There is Uber helicopter and Uber jet, I believe. Yes, it's one of the things that they're working on right now. So regular people can go up to the International Space Station without being an astronaut.

VANIER: All right. Derek Van Dam, thank you very much.

And thank you for watching. I'm back with the headlines in just a moment. Thanks.